Circuit Court Family Division LC No. 15-000542-DM
Before: Swartzle, P.J., and Saad and O'Connell, JJ.
appeals the judgment of divorce that the trial court entered.
This case raises an issue of first impression of whether the
Revocation of Paternity Act (RPA), MCL 722.1431 et
seq., is applicable to a child born through in vitro
fertilization (IVF). For the reasons provided herein, we hold
that the RPA does apply in these circumstances, and we affirm
in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings
consistent with this opinion.
parties' testimony was somewhat unclear regarding
specific dates. Defendant and plaintiff married in 1998. On
November 2, 2001, their son, DJ, was born. The parties lived
together until approximately 2008, with the exception of one
month when defendant and DJ lived apart from plaintiff.
Around 2008, plaintiff moved to Bridgman in Berrien County to
be closer to the Native American tribe to which he belonged,
and defendant and DJ moved to Detroit. The parties maintained
separate residences, but plaintiff would visit defendant
approximately once a week through 2012 or 2014.
November 18, 2013, defendant gave birth to a daughter, AJ,
conceived by using assisted reproductive technology (ART)-in
particular, IVF. The parties disputed the extent of
plaintiff's involvement in AJ's conception. Plaintiff
testified that he revoked his consent to the procedures in
January 2010. Though he may not have provided defendant with
a copy of the revocation, he testified that defendant was
aware of his revocation. Plaintiff further testified that
AJ's conception involved an anonymous sperm donor.
Although plaintiff conceded to driving defendant to a few
appointments, he believed that these appointments were for
other purposes, such as harvesting eggs for future use,
rather than defendant actively attempting to conceive a
2015, plaintiff filed the instant suit for divorce. Plaintiff
alleged that AJ was born out of wedlock and that,
consequently, he was not AJ's legal father. The parties
also disputed the custody and support of DJ. During trial,
the parties entered into a settlement, which stipulated that
plaintiff was not AJ's legal father and the trial court
accepted the stipulation.
APPLICABILITY OF THE RPA
appeal, defendant argues that the trial court erred when it
found that plaintiff was not AJ's legal father. We
the fact that a party entered into a settlement precludes
appellate review. See Chapdelaine v Sochocki, 247
Mich.App. 167, 177; 635 N.W.2d 339 (2001) ("A party
cannot stipulate a matter and then argue on appeal that the
resultant action was error."). However, our courts have
limited the enforcement of settlement agreements when they
concern the well-being of children. See Koron v
Melendy, 207 Mich.App. 188, 191; 523 N.W.2d 870 (1994)
(stating that a trial court is not bound to accept the
parties' agreement to child custody but can accept it if
it is in the child's best interests); Johns v
Johns, 178 Mich.App. 101, 106; 443 N.W.2d 446 (1989)
(holding that plaintiff father who had acted as father to the
children at issue for 15 years could not disclaim paternity
via stipulation during a custody battle). By revoking
plaintiff's paternity, the settlement agreement at issue
completely eliminates any right AJ may have to seek support
from plaintiff. Accordingly, despite the parties'
settlement agreement, we will analyze whether the trial court
properly terminated plaintiff's paternity under the
Court reviews a trial court's factual findings in
proceedings under the RPA for clear error. Demski v
Petlick, 309 Mich.App. 404, 431; 873 N.W.2d 596 (2015).
"The trial court has committed clear error when this
Court is definitely and firmly convinced that it made a
mistake." Id. (quotation marks and citation
omitted). This Court reviews de novo the interpretation and
application of statutory provisions. Parks v Parks,
304 Mich.App. 232, 237; 850 N.W.2d 595 (2014).
interpreting a statute, a court must give effect [to] the
Legislature's intent." Id. To determine the
legislative intent, this Court first looks to the language of
the statute itself and, if the language is unambiguous,
"it must be enforced as written." Title Office,
Inc v Van Buren Co Treasurer, 469 Mich. 516, 519; 676
N.W.2d 207 (2004) (quotation marks and citation omitted).
Words of statutes are given their plain and ordinary
meanings, while legal terms are construed according to their
legal meanings. Lech v Huntmore Estates Condo Ass'n
(On Remand), 315 Mich.App. 288, 290; 890 N.W.2d 378
(2016). Statutes must be read as a whole, and this Court may
not read statutory provisions in isolation. Milot v
Dep't of Transp, 318 Mich.App. 272, 278;
provides the procedures for courts to determine the paternity
of children in certain situations. Although defendant argues
that the RPA is not the proper vehicle by which to determine
AJ's paternity, the RPA expressly "governs an action
to determine that a presumed father is not a child's
father, " MCL 722.1435(4), and this is the precise
situation before us. The RPA defines a presumed father as
"a man who is presumed to be the child's father by
virtue of his marriage to the child's mother at the time
of the child's conception or birth." MCL
722.1433(e). Indeed, presuming paternity by the husband when
a married couple has undergone ART to conceive is not
contrary to the purpose of the RPA. In fact, it is consistent
with the Legislature's general policy of recognizing the
legitimacy of a child born through ART to a married couple.
See, e.g., MCL 333.2824(6); MCL 700.2114(1)(a). Thus, as a
starting point, plaintiff is the presumed father by virtue of
his marriage to defendant at the time AJ was conceived and
born, and the RPA is indeed the statute that applies to
provides that a presumed father who files for divorce may be
declared to not ...